Youthful vigour, natural talent and desire. Three key qualities that made the difference in a thriller of a game at Crimble.
Rain had, as predicted, taken a huge chunk out of Milnrow’s visit to Heywood in the first of five clashes with the Rochdale side this season.
Heywood had done well to post a total of 155-9 off 35 rain-reduced overs – finishing the final six of these after another rain break and with play starting at the last permitted second.
Milnrow were then handed a very gettable target of 104 off 20 overs after play resumed, turning the game into a T20 contest, albeit one with a slight advantage to the bowling side as there were no restrictions on overs.
The run chase ebbed and flowed, but visiting pro Babar Naeem looked to be turning the game in his side’s favour as he spanked an otherwise accurate Riley Paterson for six and four in the same over as he powered his way to 35 with half the overs left.
But then came that vigour, natural talent and desire. First, Dale Latham, who had already held a skier, took a stunning low catch to dismiss Naeem running in from the boundary off Humza Naeem.
Soon after, Latham and Naeem – just two of Heywood’s battery of top-quality fieldsmen – combined superbly for the latter to run out a desperate Sinkinson after a mix-up between him and the dangerous Jehangir.
This was followed by more excellent fielding, catching and bowling, and Heywood deservedly restricted Milnrow to 93 for an 11-run victory and what could be a vital win come the end of the season.
Despite the cold and miserable conditions, a good chunk of the Heywood faithful had stayed down to cheer and applaud their team, and the applause that rung around the patio and clubhouse was testament to the skills of Bobby Cross’s side.
Everyone knew the weather was going to intervene at some stage, and with that in mind Milnrow had quite rightly inserted Heywood after winning the toss.
It had not looked a good idea as Cross and Ross Zelem, the latter carrying on where he started off last week, were in control against a challenging opening attack of Naeem and Adam Robinson.
The visiting pair bowled well and accurately, but playing and missing occasionally is part and parcel of the early-season games and whenever Cross or Zelem was beaten by a good ball, they came back and scored well.
Cross was particularly effective off the front foot, while Zelem continued to show improved footwork and power and is now sharp enough to put away anything short of a length through midwicket.
The pair shared a partnership of 75 before Zelem became the first of Robinson’s seven victims. Cross followed shortly to become Naeem’s first victim and although pro Travis Townsend and Danny Pawson played nice little knocks a flurry of wickets kept Heywood from setting a big target.
However, Andy Dawson led the recovery before and after a serious rain break, and helped by the running of Naeem, Latham and Lovell, Heywood posted 155-9 off their 36 overs.
Now, 104 off 20 overs might seem an easy target to people gorging themselves on the feast of runs provided by the IPL, but on a wet Crimble against a solid Heywood attack Milnrow would have to do well to get this target.
They went about their business slowly at first, struggling to get Townsend and Paterson away. But Babar Naeem gradually got his eye in and started to set his side up after Paterson had taken two early wickets thanks to Latham and Wes Hunt holding chances.
Then came Latham’s inspirational catch, and although Jehangir briefly threatened Heywood’s total, he was well caught in the deep by Townsend off Humza Naeem – who finished with 3-29 – and Milnrow were left with little chance of winning.
It was a tense finish in the gloom that showcased local league cricket in its very best light, and as mentioned previously, was thoroughly enjoyed by the home support.
The continued emphasis on core fielding skills by Cross and Townsend paid dividends, and proved that although there are certain factors you can’t control, you can improve your fitness and fielding skills to a level that makes all the difference.
R Cross b B Naeem 35
R Zelem c Dryden b Robinson 35
T Townsend b Robinson 16
D Pawson b Robinson 14
R Paterson b Robinson 0
A Dawson c Jehangir b B Naeem 18
D Latham b Robinson 4
W Hunt b Robinson 7
J Lovell not out 4
H Naeem b Robinson 9
Total (9 wkts, 36 overs) 155
Fall of wickets: 1-75, 2-83, 3-102, 4-108, 5-109, 6-125, 7-136, 8-141, 9-155
Bowling: B Naeem 18-1-78-2 A Robinson 18-3-73-7
A Bartley c Latham b Paterson 4
B Naeem c Latham b H Naeem 35
D Wilkinson c Hunt b Paterson 0
N Sinkinson run out 9
M Jehangir c Townsend b H Naeem 23
S Dryden b Townsend 1
J Wilson c Kaye b H Naeem 3
A Yates not out 7
A Robinson not out 1
Total (for 7 wkts, 20 overs) 93
Fall of wickets: 1-13, 2-18, 3-55, 4-56, 5-74, 6-80, 7-86
Bowling: Paterson 6-0-29-2, Townsend 9-0-30-1, H Naeem 5-0-29-3
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